Cracking The Spice Code
I love cooking. But lately my inner foodie is tired of following recipes. I want to create my own dishes but need to build up my food knowledge. I’m starting with herbs and spices, the Rosetta Stone of cooking.
Once you knowing how to use herbs and spices you’ll bring out the flavor in foods and send your taste buds into orbit.
The spice aisle at my local grocery store is a mystery to me. Unlike my wine store, there are no guides to tell me what anise seed taste like or which dishes call for saffron. There are so many spices but I have no clue which ones go with fish. Which herbs go well with asparagus? Do you use different spices if you fry or grill a burger? By cracking this code, I feel I can really unleash my creativity.
I picked up Herbs & Spices: The Cook’s Reference: a wonderful book covering about 120+ herbs and spices, and loaded with great info on aroma, taste, buying, storing and instructions on how to cook with them.
I started this new adventure by infusing olive oil with fresh rosemary and garlic. I also made my own oven-dried tomatoes. Yes, these are very simple to do, but I had to start somewhere. Each baby step I take builds my confidence.
Rosemary-Garlic Infused Oil
- Several springs of fresh rosemary
- 8-10 cloves of garlic
- bottle with airtight seal
- extra virgin olive oil
- Peal the garlic cloves and cut in half so they will fit into the bottle. Put the cloves in the bottle, making sure they are evenly distributed along the bottom.
- Bruise the rosemary by rubbing or gently crushing the springs; place the sprigs in the bottle.
- Add oil.
- Close the bottle and keep in a cool dark place for 1-2 weeks.
- Taste the oil and if you want a stronger flavoring, add more rosemary and garlic. Once infused, you can keep the oil in the refrigerator up to 2 months. The cold may make it cloudy, but that should clear up when it reaches room temperature.
- 5-6 plum tomatoes
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ fresh ground black pepper
- fresh herbs, like rosemary or thyme, (optional)
- garlic cloves, chopped (optional)
- extra virgin olive oil (optional)
- Jar with lid
- Preheat oven to 200 F.
- Place an oven proof wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet.
- Slice stem ends off of the tomatoes then cut each tomato in half lengthwise.
- Place tomatoes in bowl and add in salt, pepper and herbs; mix well.
- Place tomatoes, cut side up, on a rack.
- Bake tomatoes in the oven for 5-6 hours (until wrinkled and shrunken). Cool completely on the rack.
- Cut the tomatoes into strips or leave as is. If placing tomatoes in oil, add garlic and herbs to oil while tomatoes are in oven. Place tomatoes in a jar, and refrigerate up to 4 days. If not placing tomatoes in oil, store tomatoes in air-tight container in the fridge for several weeks.